National Day of Money, Power, and Politics

Today’s proposed executive order is all about money. Don’t let anyone fool you that it’s about a broader principle of “religious liberty.” Money is a form of power, and the point of today’s exercise is to remove limitations on employing money in pursuit of political goals. The benefits, such as they may be, will accrue to those who already hold both money and power. If you’re a minority religion, that’s not you.

The Johnson Amendment is about the tax code. This executive order – although no one has seen the exact proposed text yet – is at least in part a directive to the IRS, which enforces the tax code. If you’re doing something that doesn’t involve money, then the IRS has nothing to do with you. In the end, this is about money, and about redistributing more money and power to those who already hold the majority of both.

I am not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on the internet. My layperson’s summary is as follows: Religious organizations can become tax exempt, based at least in part on an idea that they are doing socially beneficial endeavors that the government is not doing. But the limitation is that religious organizations cannot then turn around and use those tax-exempt dollars to fund and promote explicitly political speech. Taken at the organizational level, one can talk about whether such political action is substantial or incidental to the organization’s actions, but the upshot is that people cannot use a platform paid for with tax-exempt dollars – such as a pulpit in a church building – to make explicitly political speech. Those same people can make that same speech in another venue, as long as it is clear that they are not using the financial resources of the tax-exempt organization to support or promote that speech.

The religious right wants you to imagine that poor, well-meaning men of God (and yes, they are almost all very specifically men of their male deity) are being forbidden from teaching the dictates of their religion. This is a lie.

It’s a lie because those people are not prevented from teaching their religion using their religious resources, nor are they prevented from expressing themselves politically using their political resources. It’s just that they can’t mix the two. Your local evangelical preacher can’t take the dollars collected in the offering plate on Sunday and use those dollars to erect a sign that says “Jesus Loves Trump.” If he can raise the money in some way that doesn’t come through his church, sure, he can put that sign up. On private property. Using private money. That has paid taxes, just like everyone else, in order to support the common good. (Trust me, when your local preacher listens to Rush Limbaugh, no one has any doubts about that preacher’s political views.)

This isn’t about speech. It’s about dollars.

Second, this pitiable image is a lie not only in theory but in practice. Conservative Christians have been explicitly challenging this boundary for years with little to no resistance, governmental or otherwise. The IRS has been extremely lax in actually following up on even cases of religiously-funded speech deliberately designed to flout this law. Americans United for Separation of Church and State has been following this problem, so check them out to discover more.

Neo-Pagan financial resources are vanishingly small compared to other groups. (Whether that is right, or good, or the way things have to be, is a discussion for another time.) Compared to even a small Christian denomination, we don’t just run on a shoestring, we run on a spider’s thread. How many Pagan organizations do you know that own real estate? (A Pagan shop that puts on events and hosts classes isn’t owned by a tax-exempt organization, so keep that in mind.) We are not the ones who have the money; it’s not our money that has been restricted, so it’s not our money that is being “freed,” so don’t even begin to hope that this move will “benefit” minority religions.

This grandstanding is yet another example of the great conservative tradition of punching down. That’s nothing to celebrate.

Ohio heartbeat bill: pro blastocyte mori…

If in some aching dreams you too could pace
sleepless with the choice we find ourselves in,
and hear the fear and loathing we will face
as people tell us aught we do is sin;
If you could feel, with every cramp, the blood
ready to gush forth from ectopic wound
to salve your conscience in its crimson flood
and leave behind my lifeless form marooned,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To women ardent for a martyr’s glory,
The new lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro blastocyte mori.

With acknowledgement to Wilfred Owens, I repost this as the only response capable of expressing my response to the news that Ohio’s statehouse passed the so-called “heartbeat bill” yesterday. This abortion ban without exceptions for rape or incest will lead to deaths if it is signed by the governor (famously anti-choice) and survives court challenges with judges appointed by the incoming administration. I am terrified.

Glamour breaking as political magic

At the waning of the moon, a Witch’s fancy darkly turns to thoughts of hex…

-With apologies to Lord Tennyson

Breaking glamours is one of the most ethical acts we can do magically in a political situation. If you truly set your intention to break a glamour, then if you’re mistaken, and there’s no glamour there, no harm is done. The energy just dissipates. If you are correct about there being a glamour there, then you are helping the truth come out, which contributes to an informed electorate and better democracy. If, however, you are truly doing a spell to force other people to see your candidate in your way, you are being unethical. Examine yourself, your mind and heart and intentions, before you try this to make sure that you can do it ethically.

This post is about breaking Donald Trump’s glamour(s). I’m not going to debate politics at this time. I am convinced that Donald Trump is casting a glamour to present himself as things he is not. He wants to be seen as a virile man, a nearly cartoonish representation of toxic masculinity and patriarchy embodied. He wants to be seen as a successful, rich businessman (who also is interested in jobs for regular Americans?). He wants to be seen as the embodiment of power-over. I think he is in fact none of those things. Breaking that glamour will contribute to voters seeing him more accurately and making more informed choices on that basis.

This is an outline for a simple spell for banishing. You can dress it up with a lot more features. But if you’ve got a dark colored candle (or a white candle and a sharpie, be resourceful folks), and some magical oomph, you can give it a go.

Cast your circle.

Call the quarters. Ask Air to sweep away empty words and bring in the forces of truth. Ask Fire to burn brightly and consume all falsehoods and mirages. Ask Water to wash us with compassion and empathy. Ask Earth to support and strengthen only that which has true roots.

If you have a deity who is relevant, ask them to join you. I will personally call on Athena Columbia, spirit of this land and our government and the ideals we hold dear, to help show when candidates’ true natures are in line with those ideals or opposed to them.

Light a black candle. You can hold it in your dominant hand if you want.

Form a visualization in your mind of Donald Trump. See and hear him as a person behind a created persona: he has a projection in front of him that looks like his TV personality, big and bluff, virile and rich. If it helps your visualization, imagine yourself walking around to the side or peeking to the side to look “behind” the projected persona. Behind it, you can see him as he truly is: misogynist, racist, weaker than he thinks. He is the ultimate con person, trying to con even himself, but (very) deep down he knows it is a con. Tonight we are breaking that con, shattering the image, and allowing his true nature to show through.

When you have this visualization, using your non-dominant hand (the hand you do not write with), start making counter-clockwise circles in front of you. See and hear and feel yourself wiping away the projected persona just as you would clean the steam off your mirror after a shower. Clean it off of the glass of TV screens and computer screens and mobile devices. Wipe it away, always counter clockwise, at least three times.

Use the black candle to illuminate the truth that remains behind the projection. Let this truth shine clearly, reflect easily, into all the places that projection was showing.

Verbalize your intentions as you go, if it helps you. Say something like, “I break your glamour. I see you as you truly are.” Add details if you want; whatever helps you visualize (which also includes other senses, hearing especially) is useful.

When you are done, thank deity and the quarters. Open the circle.

Let the candle burn out, if you can do so safely. Either way, when you are done with it, take it away from your home, at least across water, and throw it away (in a trash can, be an eco-Witch) and leave without looking back.

Options and further ideas:

If you want to, you could dip your hand in a bowl of blessed salt water to do the wiping away. Dispose of the water immediately afterwards, ideally away from your house, but down the drain if need be, followed by clean water and good riddance.

If you want to, you can dress the candle with an oil and or herbs, such as ones for banishing. Dress the candle from the center to each end for banishing purposes.

I have also been doing a little spell with my weeding. I have a thistle problem in my backyard, and I am trying to use it to good effect. Whenever I weed during the waning of the moon, I name each thistle with the name of something I want to uproot and destroy: patriarchy, racism, misogyny, misogynoir, ableism, and so on. Then I uproot it, or cut it off at the roots below the ground, and visualize the problem becoming a little smaller, a little more manageable, a little less supported. I have also been saying things like, “Donald Trump movement, you have no roots, you are shallow and unsupported, you do not get the hate that you need, you do not get the attention that you need, you do not get the lies that you need.”

If you use these and have any feedback, I would love to hear about it!

To keep the peace in Cleveland

There has been so much violence lately. I have so many thoughts about the proximate and ultimate causes of those incidents, and I am glad that our society is having some of the heartbreaking and necessary discussions around those issues. I cannot contribute more to those discussions today. What I want to do right now is first aid, attempting to staunch the bleeding, in particular in the overheated environment of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

I believe that one thing that would make everything worse is an outbreak of violence at the Republican convention. Whoever starts it, however it ends, I believe that it would further divide our country and entrench fringe positions in power. If you disagree, then you can do whatever work you think best. If you agree, then here’s what I’m doing to try to keep the peace in Cleveland for this crucial stretch of time.

I am a Witch, and right now I am a Witch in touch with the land of Ohio. This is my job. Anyone who wants to help can help; you don’t need to do it exactly the way I do it, and you don’t need to use the same tools I use. Pray, dance naked in the forest, drum for the rivers, do whatever works for you. But if you want to help with this, I’d be grateful, and if you’re not sure how best to help, maybe my work will give you some ideas.

I used a map of Ohio. Just a plain old highway map. (Yes, I rode dinosaurs back before we invented GPS and we used these paper things called maps to point our brontosauruses in the right direction according to the sun. It’s old tech but it still works.) If you don’t have one, print one out. Or draw it. Just the state of Ohio with the city of Cleveland marked on it. Or the watershed. Whatever works for you.

In my sacred space, I oriented the map so that north on the map was facing north in the physical world. (I think this is one of the few crucial parts of using maps. If you’re holding the map upside down compared to the real world, any kind of magic I’m familiar with would be very, very confused.) I sank my awareness down into the soil of Ohio, this glacier-scraped plain shot through with slow and winding rivers, and laid my hands on the map and asked it to become one with the places it represents. (Think of this as just like when you ask the water in the bowl for the west point in the circle to become one with all the Water of the world and what it means metaphysically.)

Then I made offerings. You should make offerings that work for you; mine are shaped at this moment in time by the relationships I’m working with. I poured out honey for the Good Folk, the more tricksy of the spirits of the land, and whiskey for my deities, who mostly come from the Celtic pantheon, who came over with their people when enough of them settled here to make Dublin, Ohio, a reality. I offered tobacco for the spirits of the First Nations, who I do not forget, even though I do not know them very well. I offered tobacco for the wrongs done under slavery, and as a reminder of Ohio’s role in trying to change that sinful system. I offered olive oil for Columbia Athena, who I believe to be the matron spirit of our government and of our nation as it exists now.

I laid out physical objects to express my intentions. My intention for this working is simple: let violence go to ground. Let every human being in and around Cleveland be influenced, in whatever way is possible, to be physically peaceful. This is an earth spell, so I used stones to express it. I put a lead bullet on top of Cleveland on the map, and on top of it and around it I piled black tourmaline, for grounding, and jet, to absorb evil, and a metallic meteorite, to bring things down from heaven to earth.

Obviously the bullet represents gun violence, but lead is also the metal of Saturn, the planet of restrictions and limitations. I am trying to hold down violence of all kinds, but especially gun violence. The guns are already present in Cleveland, in the hands of police and non-police, in the hands of people of all races and genders and political identities. What I am trying to do is keep them from being used.

This is a binding of sorts, but I am thinking of it mostly in terms of gravity: making the weapons of violence too heavy to lift, too heavy to wield, too heavy to fight.

You could do the same thing with stones from your landbase. Or black stones, or whatever stones represent earth and grounding and heaviness for you. The tools are just tools – you are the one doing the work.

With all this in place, I began to shape my intention, to give it voice and form and power. It became something like this:

May all the weapons be too heavy to lift.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May every hand that is raised be lowered again in peace.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May batons and sticks remain heavy on the ground.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May knives be blunted and fall from the wielder’s hand.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May guns hang heavy in their holsters and remain there.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May bullets find only earth and not flesh.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May grenades fall to the ground as duds.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only words be exchanged.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only voices be raised.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only emotions flow in rivers on the land.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only hearts be lifted.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May people recognize each other’s humanity.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May people value the land they live in.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May everyone survive.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

While saying this, I put my hands over the stones on the map, and sent my energy into them. When I was done, I gave thanks, and ended my work.

Please note that this is NOT a time to light candles. The situation in Cleveland – and across the country, truth be told – is already volatile enough. It does not need any more undirected, ravening energy of change. If you want to join in this through visualization, great. Through praying to your land, crying to your rivers, speaking to your air, great. But don’t, for the love of all that’s holy, think you can extinguish gunpowder with a candle.

May it be so, for you, for all of us.

SCOTUS Endorses Government Prayer (updated)

The Supreme Court decision regarding the prayer practices of the town of Greece, New York is bad news for anyone who does not want to experience Christian prayers at government functions.

The real problem with this decision is that its overall philosophy moves further away from an endorsement test – the idea that the government should not endorse a specific religion – and towards a coercion test instead, verging on the idea that government can endorse religion without coercing citizens to follow that religion. Moreover, a couple justices took the opportunity to say they would like to see coercion defined even more narrowly, meaning that government would have an even wider scope to push religion. See more specific discussion at SCOTUSblog.

It is not an accident that justices who have experienced the least disadvantage in their lives tend to see coercion narrowly and don’t have a problem with endorsement, while those who have wider life experiences are more likely to think that endorsement slides into coercion and that both are a bad thing. People in the majority – in this case the religious majority – have not been subject to the myriad slings and arrows of everyday life that make one more thing, like your government expecting you to have the strength to withstand public, officially sanctioned disparagement, just too much to bear.

Specifically, this decision is a bad thing for Wiccans because to be realistic, in my lifetime we will not be on an equal footing with Christians, and this decision is all about accommodating the majority rather than protecting the minority. In the meantime, we run a serious risk of being used as cover – call it the “I Have a Wiccan Friend” defense. In other words, if a town council has to get a Wiccan one week out of the year (and a Jew once and a Buddhist once) so that they can have their exclusionary prayers to Jesus the other 49 weeks, they’ll do it, and those 49 weeks will do way more to reinforce the Christian sense of hegemony (we own this town – look at the meetings!) than that one week of pretend tolerance will.

Make no mistake, that one-week-a-year, or any similar plan, is tolerance, not inclusion. I have argued before and will argue again that there is no such thing as a fully inclusive prayer that covers all citizens, so the only truly inclusive option is no prayer at all.

Moreover, it looks to me at first glance like this decision’s details gave small governments a long list of ways to tailor their tolerance so that it’s not too burdensome on the Christian majority. It doesn’t seem like there’s any real burden for the government to be inclusive by any standard, for example. Saying that local governments may be run “informally” is a loophole big enough to drive the “Oh, it’s an accident that we forgot to invite any rabbis” truck right through.

EDITED: Originally, my last paragraph read:

Personally, I will continue to advocate for less appearance of government endorsing religion for any religion, mine included. I would not give an opening prayer at a government meeting even if I was specifically invited to do so. Others may make different decisions depending on circumstances, but please think carefully before participating in this misguided encroachment of government-sponsored religion.

EDITED TO ADD:

I am hearing some good arguments about why we should engage in exactly the kind of prayer that I firmly believe on fundamental principles should not be happening. I am not particularly swayed by the argument from equal misery: If they’re going to make us miserable, I am not convinced that we should make them miserable too. I am much more convinced by the argument that trying to participate in public prayer and being turned away could be – in the long term, on the order of decades – the foundation of a new case to get this crap overturned.

In the meantime and the near term, there is always the possibility that a sectarian Wiccan or Hellenistic or Druid prayer can be so repulsive to a Christian majority that the Christian majority decides not to hold the public prayers any longer. That would be similar to the attempt to install a Satanist monument in Oklahoma to “balance” the Ten Commandments monument.

I am not yet convinced that the potential harm done to others in the meantime is worth it, especially because of the risk of being used for “cover” in the way I describe above. I am willing to be convinced otherwise.

I don’t know how to balance the kind of activism for equal recognition of Wicca and Paganisms that I see going on in many places (military, prisons) with using Wicca as a weapon to get religion removed. How do I take action and try to communicate the subtext “Well, you could just not allow prayers here,” in one context, and in another context take an almost identical action with the subtext, “No, really, take me seriously, Wiccan prisoners have a real need for ministry?” How do we avoid having the kind of wiggle-arounds that are going to be used in prayer-giving contexts (oh, we’ll have everyone in on a rotation, that’ll work) applied to other contexts to marginalize us even further?

As I said, I’m willing to hear further arguments. I’m deeply torn about this matter and expect to spend some time contemplating while I’m away at Fertile Ground Gathering this weekend. That means I won’t be here to moderate comments or respond. We’ve got time. Let’s ground and center and think and talk together before we act.

Columbia and Justice for women’s choices

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in cases that have to do with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for insurance plans to cover contraception. I renew my prayers to Justice and to Columbia:

Justice, be not blind, but look into our hearts with piercing gaze and discern the ill intent of those who would rule over others with theocratic mandates full of hate.

Let their will be weighed as naught when you lift your scales that judgment be not swayed but find the rightful balance to help us live together in pluralistic peace.

Columbia, matron goddess of your district and our government, stand firm atop the wall of separation between church and state, to ensure that women have control over our own bodies.

So mote it be!

Voting is still a holy act

When I voted today, it was a holy action. That doesn’t mean it was a perfect one, or a sacred one, but it was still holy.

It can be tempting to say that politics is just too messy, too ugly, too banal, and that we don’t want to deal with it. Or to claim that if no politician or party accurately represents my position, I just won’t vote at all. I get that, I really do. I believe there are times that abstaining might be the better option. I just don’t think that today’s election in Virginia is one of those times.

I’m totally underwhelmed with who I voted for, but I could not in good conscience stand aside when a social conservative more interested in regulating private oral sex between consenting adults than instituting background checks on gun purchases is trying to gain control of my home. And don’t get me started on his positions in the war on women and his anti-QUILTBAG stances. His running mate is, doubtful though it might seem, even further out on the far right wing. And their slate’s candidate to replace Cuccinelli as AG is no prize, either.

Voting against them doesn’t make me happy about who I did vote for, but it did make me convinced that it was necessary to vote. This situation is a murky ethical choice. But we make these kinds of choices every day. When you deeply consider the ethical and environmental ramifications of your choices about what to eat, wear, and do, the intricacies quickly become overwhelming and the lack of “pure” options is starkly depressing. But we do make choices; we try to make better choices, weighing the kinds of harm and the situations involved, and most of us, most of the time, make a choice and try to do our best. I see voting – at least in this situation – as the same kind of closely considered imperfect act. But those imperfections don’t necessarily remove it from the realm of being holy.

For me, the work of voting is also an offering to Columbia, the American Athena. But that isn’t just “goddess-washing” the act of voting. It goes to the heart of what I’m talking about here. Athena is a goddess of practicality, and of humans and how they live together. She knows all about trade-offs and difficult legal situations. She stands over the current Capitol, and although the situation inside that building may be dysfunctional, I don’t believe that means we should scrap it all or lay blame equally and try to start from scratch. We’ll see more about that when next year’s elections roll around. But Columbia wants us, I believe, to work together, and to do better. That means starting from where we are, imperfections and all.

This idea of working together, even when that is difficult, is why, for me, voting is still holy. Voting is the core action of participating in the larger whole, in the democracy of our country that is supposed to include everyone. The business of how we manage our joint, civic lives is right down there in the connections between all of us. As such, it’s never going to be “pure” or “ideal.” It’s not sacred in the sense of being set-apart from the everyday. But it is essential. Voting is a piece of magic where I reinforce my participation in what makes us a whole, and that makes it holy.

I hope you have the chance to vote today.

Columbia, help us rise

My dear friend Hecate is fond of calling Washington, District of Columbia her shining city on a swamp. It’s an apt metaphor for politics. Columbia, help us rise above the swamp, and shine again.

columbia-freedomColumbia’s district isn’t quite as swampy as urban legend suggests. Still, it’s a good metaphor for politics, because that’s where human life starts: down in the mud and muck. As much as other religions would like to claim that there is some bedrock of truth with a capital “twue” that we can start from, my experience and belief lead me to see our foundations as much more earthy, organic, and prone to change. Like the old joke about the foundations of the universe, it’s turtles all the way down.

What’s amazing is that we can and do build great edifices out of those uncertain foundations. By virtue of our agreements with each other, our cooperation, and our valorization of certain principles, we raise up amazing structures and manage, more or less, to live in them. While we like to imagine our great monuments and governmental buildings of shining stone, and we splash the colors of the flag on anything that will stand still long enough, deep down at the foundations of this country are fragile pieces of paper and the agreements made by men – men whom we hold in esteem, yes, but men who were also flawed, and made of mud and muck just as much as any of us.

I have been saying since the emergence of the Tea Party that it is terribly dangerous to the functioning of a democracy and the system of representative government for people to elect politicians who proclaim their fundamental mission as NOT governing, politicians who claim that they do not believe that the institution they are going to be part of should exist in its current form and fulfill its current functions.

The Tea Party and other ultra-conservatives have announced from the beginning that their mission was to stop government from working the way it has been working. They have been true to their word. They have come to this shining city and rather than trying to participate in the building up, or suggesting different goals for building, or even just getting out of the way when they have lost a disagreement and multiple elections, they are actively hindering any progress, any ability to agree, any effort to raise ourselves up. They drag us back to the muck, kicking and screaming, and at the moment they have fulfilled their mission of stopping government from working.

Remember, these folks don’t really believe that the government should do much beyond run the military. It’s okay with them if kids don’t get cancer treatment and national parks are closed and so on – they’d rather see those things privatized anyway. This is why they were willing to take a shutdown, and insisted that it wouldn’t hurt people or the country very much. Being wrong has never stopped them before, and it didn’t stop them now.

So in these days I pray: Columbia, help us rise above. You stand at the apex of the building where our elected officials meet. Concentrate our voices, help us remind them that they are supposed to commit themselves to the rule of law, and of elections, and all the forms of life that help us build a shining city on swampy foundations and some pieces of paper and the ideals that even we can’t quite agree on. Columbia, help any who are willing to hear sense and to do their jobs within the institution they were sent to serve; help us to throw out any who insist on dragging everyone into the mud with them.

Columbia, help us rise.

September 11th and shadows

I read Hecate’s excellent post on the dark moon and working with shadows last week, and while I had done a ritual to observe the dark/new moon, I thought to myself, “I wish I’d done that instead.” One of the things about being a Witch is that you learn to be careful what you wish for. Over the next few days, my body reminded me that while my personal monthly cycle is not always in sync with the moon, it does present me with an unenviable opportunity to face my shadows on a regular basis. Now, on the heels of that, we arrive at a day that in the US will be used for contemplations of several kinds, and I am thinking that we should bring the skills of shadow work to this conversation, too.

Each grief proceeds at its own pace, and for some people who grieve September 11th, it will never be far enough away to try to approach it again from the different angle of shadow work. I understand that; I honor that, and wish that I had other comfort to offer. I do not write primarily to those people.

I write because I have experienced the ways that facing one’s shadows, recognizing them, understanding them, and ultimately integrating them, leads to healing and to wholeness. In the absence of this process, we feed our shadows’ power. We see our (denied or unrecognized) shadows everywhere, and we project them even where they don’t belong. We act out their patterns when other behavior would be a better use of our time and energy.

We should talk about our national shadows because they are very real, just as real as our national psyche and self-perception. And because our ideas of what it means to be American are diverse and varied, so are our shadows – but the shadows have an extra power, because they are harder to discuss, harder to see clearly. This inherent power makes them potent political weapons.

For example, I believe that the response of conservative news media to last year’s attack on the US compound in Benghazi was nothing more nor less than a deliberate attempt to inflame a shadow of September 11th in order to reinforce their political attitudes, especially the idea that we desperately need a Strong (Republican) Leader.

Similarly, some Congress members recently distorted the facts of September 11th in order to invoke its shadow to drum up support for one side of the current conflict in Egypt. But if we’ve observed anything in Egypt, it is that the Arab Spring will not lead directly to some miraculous Summer of Democracy. As a country, we should be careful what we wish for, and who we arm.

As a result, the discussion of what action to take with respect to Syria is covered in shadows: One of the biggest might be called World’s Policeman. This shadow is cast by some heroic history, but it is a shadow, not the thing itself, and it is one we need to be wary of. It often interacts with Sole Superpower, a shadow with even uglier implications. There are also shadows related to actions taken or not taken in military, political, and diplomatic ways more recently and more specifically.

Just as with individual shadow problems, there is a wealth of history that informs the development of these shadows and should be addressed as part of understanding them. (Have you ever seen the photo of Don Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein?) I may yet write more about that. For now, I want to plant the idea of working with our national shadows as something we should do.

But when I write we, I mean the individuals of the country, out of whom the country and her psyche are made. Specifically those of us who do magic, who work with shadow as part of our practice, we should take the lead here. I don’t have a simple recommendation; I don’t think shadow work is ever simple. So I ask you: how would you do shadow work with the country?

For me, I will work with Columbia, engaging with her and with my own personal corner of what it means to be America. I will dialogue with her, and her shadows, and my shadows, the way I have dialogued with my own shadows in the past, and I will try to integrate just a fragment more, so that in the future, I will have the wisdom of honest history and the resulting courage of my convictions to take a stand.

Cuccinelli v All Acts of Love And Pleasure

My religion encourages oral sex.

Ken Cuccinelli, candidate for governor, wants to outlaw it.

Why am I not the new face of the brave fight for religious liberty?

Cuccinelli for Governor: Because oral sex sucks!
Image courtesy of the blogger’s partner (in crime, apparently). If you copy, please link back.

Seriously, though: Ken Cuccinelli, the current attorney general of Virginia and Republican candidate for governor has just launched a new website as part of his campaign that argues in favor of a law which criminalizes oral and anal sex between consenting adults in private.

This law is currently unconstitutional as a result of a Supreme Court ruling. But Cuccinelli is arguing that it’s a vital part of protecting children from sex offenders, which makes no sense. Moreover, it’s offensive to me as a woman, a Wiccan, and a feminist.

The actual case where the law was declared unconstitutional as a result of SCOTUS precedent involved at least one seventeen year old. I agree that there’s a metric crapton of potential problems with someone in hir teens having sex with someone in hir 40s or 50s. But if Cuccinelli has a problem with 17 year olds having sex, he could try to raise the age of consent, or prove that the situation was not consensual. That’s not what he’s doing. He’s specifically argued in favor of keeping the parts of the law (that are unconstitutional) that ban private consensual non-commercial adult (above the age of consent) behavior.

Cuccinelli basically says that the law won’t be used to prosecute adults doing what they want. But there’s no reason to believe him. That’s exactly what the law says, and in the law, you live and die (or convict and set free) based on what the law actually, very specifically, says. What kind of prosecutor argues that on the one hand, he desperately must have a law that criminalizes a wide range of behavior, but then promises that on the other hand he won’t prosecute what the law says, even when that’s what he’s actually doing? Not to mention, what kind of fiscal conservative says that it’s vitally important to spend precious government time and money to defend laws that have already been declared unconstitutional?

The homophobic kind, that’s who.

From Think Progress:

In fact, Cuccinelli is a major reason that the provisions of this particular law governing non-consensual sex were left vulnerable to court challenge. In 2004, a bipartisan group in the Virginia General Assembly backed a bill that would have brought the law in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling. They proposed to eliminate the Crimes Against Nature law’s provisions dealing with consenting adults in private and leaving in place provisions relating to prostitution, public sex, and those other than consenting adults. Cuccinelli opposed the bill in committee and helped kill it on the Senate floor.

In 2009, he told a newspaper why he supported restrictions on the sexual behavior of consenting adults: “My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that. … They don’t comport with natural law.” As a result of Cuccinelli’s homophobia, the law’s text remains unchanged a decade after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

While Cuccinelli tries to spin his efforts as “Virginia’s appeal to preserve a child-protection statute,” this amounts to little more than his attempt to restore the state’s unconstitutional ban on oral sex.

This matters because it shows that Cuccinelli is willing to fight a dead letter over a culture war issue. It matters because he’s willing to mislead people with moral panic over child endangerment to do it. It matters because this anti-sex agenda is what Cuccinelli really thinks is worth working on, and it’s what he thinks will make him win. You’d better believe it’s what he’ll act on if he does win.

His culture-warrior stance runs a lot deeper than just oral sex. He’s been using his current office to move heaven and earth to restrict reproductive health rights in Virginia. In addition, his running running mate is one EW Jackson, a Christian pastor, whose aggressively anti-non-Christian attitudes and comments have been covered quite seriously at the Wild Hunt and with an appropriately large dash of sarcasm at Wonkette.

And quite frankly, my understanding of Wicca really does validate all kinds of consensual sex. It’s right there in the Charge of the Goddess:

All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.

The idea of “acts of love and pleasure” is a very potent way of expressing my feminist ethic of consent to sex. I’m not going to consent to something that’s not pleasurable to me. If I can’t consent – if I can’t engage in love and pleasure – then whatever’s happening isn’t sex; it’s sexual assault, abuse, battery, or rape.

Cuccinelli is actually making a version of the Two Boxes argument about what kinds of sex are permissible and not permissible. Nearly all “slippery slope” arguments about marriage equality are versions of this. (Cuccinelli gets double Conservative SexHater Points for pretending that outlawing consensual adult oral sex is a way of “protecting our children.” Score!)

The Two Boxes argument says that the Christian god has designated certain kinds of sex as “good” and other kinds as “bad,” and that there is no other possible way to differentiate between allowable and not-allowable actions in our secular civil law. Therefore, if you allow one “bad” thing, you’re allowing all “bad” things. Slippery slope: people will gay-marry their dogs! The Two Boxes argument is extremely simplistic. By contrast, my ethics – both my secular civil reasoning and my religious understanding – tell me that we can draw a different boundary based on enthusiastic consent.

In the rest of this post, I am going to talk about the connections between my civil feminist understanding and my Wiccan understanding. There’s already been a lot of great feminist explication of this ethic of consent. I think that we should determine our secular, civil law on the basis of secular, civil reasoning. I am not trying to substitute my Wiccan standards for Cuccinelli’s Christian standards. I am trying to explain why my Wiccan standards coincide with my secular feminist standards. With that in mind, Cuccinelli’s efforts really are offensive not just on a human rights and feminist level but to me as a person with a different religion with different standards.

I think that the idea “acts of love and pleasure” contains the seeds of the concept of affirmative, enthusiastic consent. This concept differentiates between acceptable and unacceptable sex on the basis that some people can’t engage in love and pleasure. That might be because they’re not people: lampposts, dogs, box turtles; it might be because they’re incapable of consent: under the age of consent, handicapped, intoxicated, etc. Either way, the standard concepts of “love” and “pleasure” don’t apply.

Ultimately, my understanding relies on the idea that sex is a cooperative activity that is done by partners together. Sex is not a thing that men do to women as objects. Sex is not a thing that women have that men try to get or take. Sex isn’t just about men and women. It’s about people, and their consent, to acts of love and pleasure.

Those ideas, deep down, are what scares Cuccinelli, and his fellow culture warriors, spitless, pun intended:

People – consent – love – and pleasure

If you care about those things, whether for civil or religious reasons, or especially both, then you ought to find Cuccinelli’s latest actions reprehensible.

PS: Regarding the first statement: There. Now you can start blaming me, right after the makers of Witch-sploitation movies, for causing people to claim that they’re Wiccan when they don’t have the first clue what Wicca really is.

ETA: Think Progress also gives an example of a sheriff’s department in Louisiana enforcing a similar “anti-sodomy” statute which is equally unconstitutional and hence unenforceable. This proves that “unenforceable” does not prevent officers from arresting and detaining people. I don’t know the details of how arrest records work, but they may be different from court records. Certainly the news often reports that people were arrested on offenses in the past, and job applications may ask if the applicant has been arrested, not just about convictions. I hope I don’t have to spell out all the implications.